India critical to our growth: Viacom chief ...

By Fakir Hassen, Indo-Asian News Service

imageMumbai, March 22 (IANS) A large part of US media giant Viacom's future growth will come from India, company CEO and president Tom Freston said Wednesday while confessing he fell in love with Zeenat Aman after seeing a film of hers.

Preston was delivering the keynote address at the inauguration of Frames 2006, the annual meet organised here by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The Viacom head said the company planned to expand its global position over the next five years, including not only self-distribution but also increasing co-production with the Indian film industry.

Preston said India had also greatly influenced the localisation plan of MTV across the world. "I knew from my experience in India that MTV could work anywhere, as long as it was localised."

Preston said the first managers employed to run MTV here did not know the audience and just blasted Western music at Indian audiences - "so we hired local nationals to design the channel with VJs who spoke English and Hindi."

Preston said the experience of India had reinforced the commitment to further localisation of MTV globally. "The lessons of India have led to fewer than one percent of the staff being American now."

Preston explained how his experience with a clothing business that he started in India many years ago had influenced his thinking when he joined Viacom as marketing manager.

"After seeing 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna', I fell in love with Zeenat Aman and I loved the music of Asha Bhosle. I knew if it had that effect on me, it would knock the socks off every one else.

"I remember seeing Amitabh Bachchan long before he began making anyone a millionaire," he said referring to the hit TV programme "Kaun Banega Crorepati" that the actor used to conduct.